It’s our favourite Jesus-thanking, glamourous dress-wearing, Mel-Gibson-might go-nuts-at-a-police-officer-iest night of the year. It’s the Oscars and although we haven’t got around to seeing a lot of the major contenders for the big prizes because we went to watch Paddington the Bear nine times, that won’t stop us having an opinion on who deserves an Oscar.
It’s potentially a good year for British film with several nominations in the main categories, some of which actually have a chance of winning. Not you, Keira Knightley because you obviously peaked with The Bill, but the others stand a chance. Eddie Redmayne is the standout for his portrayal of Professer Stephen Hawking, but Benedict Cumberbatch, Rosamund Pike and Felicity Jones have varying sniffs of a chance.
In honour of Hollywood’s big night out, we’ve dusted down our finest George at Asda frock, cracked open the nicest bottle of bubbly £5 gets you at Lidl and sifted through the record books to see if we could find some Oscars stats to back up our betting.
Good Ill Hunting
While the world has got far too sensible to agree with Kirk Lazarus’s ‘never go full retard’ advice, there’s certainly sizeable evidence to suggest that playing a character with a notable physical or mental health difficulty doesn’t hurt your chances of claiming that famous yet oddly gaudy statuette. In the last 25 years of the Academy Awards, 64% of Best Actor award winners have been portraying a character with a notable mental or physical health issues, with 36% having no such issue.
First and foremost, we appreciate that the afflictions and illnesses included in this category encompass a very broad church, many of which have nothing to do with each other and would require very different methods of response and treatment. Daniel Day-Lewis’s cerebral palsy suffering Christy Brown in My Left Foot is plainly galaxies apart from the existentialist suburban depression of Kevin Spacey in American Beauty. Still though, the end product for the movie-goer is a character facing a tough battle and ultimately, that tends to resonate very well with the people filling out the ballots.
Second of all, that’s not to say that the characters who don’t fit into the category didn’t have problems, but rather the problems they had were more self-imposed rather than as a result of illness. For example, Denzel Washington’s character in Training Day was evidently ethically bankrupt, but this was more a choice than something imposed upon him. That’s the differentiation we’re making in our own heads and it makes sense to us at least.
Being a competition run by Americans, in America for an industry dominated by the the USA, it’s not really surprising to see that American actors have dominated the Best Actor award. They’ve won it 67.5% of the time and the given that they’ve commanded around 67.5% of all the nominations for the gong, they punch at almost exactly their expected weight. Overall, British actors triumph around 23% of the time, slightly above their 21% share of nominations.
Those stats are reasonably encouraging, but what’s more positive is the recent trend towards British victories. After undergoing a barren spell from Anthony Hopkins victory for Silence of the Lambs in 1992 through to 2008, British thespians have won three of the last seven Best Actor awards, which is level with the American haul over the same period.
It’s all comes as exceptionally good news for Eddie Redmayne who is already the overwhelming 2/7 favourite to land the gong. His portrayal of Professor Stephen Hawking’s descent into the grip of motor neuron disease in The Theory of Everything fits right into the recent trend of Best Actor winners playing a character suffering from physical health difficulties. Likewise, the recent revival in British success bodes well so all in all, success for the man playing the great theoretical physicist is looking relatively likely.
Get Real for Best Actress
There’s also some good news for Redmayne’s co-star, Felicity Jones. It’s not great news because she’s a 40/1 shot to claim the Best Actress award, but it may help if you fancy an upset. There’s a strong trend towards the Best Actress gong going to an actress portraying a real-life character. Since the year 2000, 60% of Best Actresses have won for giving their interpretation of an actual person. That’s a serious shift in trend, especially considering that in the 15 years before that, just one Oscar was handed out for a portrayal of someone real – namely Susan Sarandon in Dead Man Walking.
The negative trends are much stronger however. Only seven times in the 86 edition history of the Oscars have the Best Actor and Best Actress awards gone to actors in the same film. That equates to around 8%, which means it happens roughly once every 12 years. It’s been 18 years since it happened last (Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt in As Good As It Gets), so it’s due to happen eventually, but with Julianne Moore 1/50 to claim the award for her turn as a young Alzheimer’s disease sufferer in Still Alice, it’s looking less likely than Johnny Depp ever making another good movie.
A New Direction?
Elsewhere, the stats suggest the Imitation Game might be a value bet for the Best Picture Oscar at 35/1. Three of the last four Best Picture gongs have gone to films falling into the historical-drama category (i.e. films portraying non-fictional historical events). Although Boyhood is non-fiction, it’s not historical in the same sense and Birdman is just a bit mental, so they go against the current vogue of the Academy’s tastes. Having said that, Selma, American Sniper and The Theory of Everything also go with the ‘historo-drama’ trend if you think the two market leaders are over-hyped.
In the Best Director category, the trends support Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu as the 8/11 favourite. It’s been five years since an American won this Oscar and seven years since an American man/American men won it. The former is probably the longest drought in Oscar history (depending on how you view the nationality of certain winners) and the latter definitely is. The Birdman director is looking to make it back to back wins for Mexican directors after Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity last year.